McLaren rule out Alonso for reserve role as Mercedes' Gutierrez ineligible

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McLaren has ruled out drafting in Fernando Alonso should either of its drivers become infected with Covid-19.

Last week saw the first case of a Formula 1 driver missing a race following a positive test for Sergio Perez, who was replaced by Nico Hulkenberg at Racing Point.

There is still uncertainty as to whether the Mexican will be eligible for this weekend's second race at Silverstone, with some confusion over the quarantine guidelines implemented by the UK government.

But what it has done is reveal an unknown problem at Mercedes, who share their reserve drivers with Racing Point and McLaren, because a rule change has meant Esteban Gutierrez, who would normally stand in because Stoffel Vandoorne is away competing in Formula E, is no longer eligible for a superlicence.

“I think Esteban would have been a really strong candidate for the [Racing Point] seat but unfortunately he didn’t qualify,” said team boss Toto Wolff.

Gutierrez Merc

“There is a new rule this year that says if you haven’t raced in an Formula 1 car, in an official event, for the last three years, you need to have done a test for at least 300km.

“That is a new rule that came into effect this year which we didn’t particularly look at because we didn’t think that a Formula 1 driver that previously had a strong record wouldn’t qualify for the drive.

“That was the case with Esteban so that is [one reason] why Racing Point opted for the other option – not a bad option – in Nico Hülkenberg.

“We have to analyse now what it means for us, it’s a shame because giving Esteban a chance is always nice and he has been a strong part of the team and is a strong pillar of the team.

“And obviously I don’t hope that it is ever necessary that we need a reserve driver… but it looks [like] we need to come up with another solution.”

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It has also given McLaren a dilemma as they too are now without a spare driver but Alonso, who will race for their IndyCar team at the Indianapolis 500 later this month, isn't a potential replacement.

“No. Fernando is not in discussion regarding a reserve drive role on our side, and I think also the Indy programme kicks off now," team boss Andreas Seidl said last weekend.

After Indy, the double world champion will of course focus back on F1 as he prepares to return with Renault in 2021.